by Atlas Harris (United States)
Audio: “Legacy,” read by Eliza Fichter
My mother and I
dug a thousand boxes
of memories from her closet.
Gifts, letters, cards.
Mountains of things she kept,
and never let go of.
Paper covered the floor.
Bones sat on shelves with the dust.
Jewelry lay out on bedsheets,
the faces of spirits reflecting in the cut of gemstones.
Every letter sent to and from her grandma.
The plane ticket to Hawaii
that her grandfather bought her after she graduated.
Programs from both of their funerals.
Letters upon letters from her sister
before either of them had kids,
and before the relationship went sour.
All the congratulations
from when I was born,
stacked higher than the high-rise
where my parents lived in New York
before they settled to have me and my brother.
I never realized I was born into a family of writers
until I saw all those memories.
The ocean had erupted from the closet doors
spreading a shore of parchment sand
and little origami crabs that give you tiny paper-cuts.
I always knew my mother was a writer.
She hails it as her best skill.
but I had never read
something of hers so...
Like finding the desolate remains of a fire in a snowstorm.
Nowadays I visit our family more than she does;
the last of those letters
was written over a decade ago.
She kept all of those memories
for so long.
What does it say that she's getting rid of them now?
In the abyss of aged paper,
I found a letter from my father to my mother,
when they found out she was pregnant with me.
And I read it ten times over,
It held a love I had not witnessed from him, and promises he would not keep.
Alongside it, a poem he had written
after moving into my childhood home.
and laced with adoration.
A man so excited to be a father
his words reached out from the paper
to cradle my face and kiss my forehead
while I grimaced,
the victim of dramatic irony.
A man who is now a stranger to me.
I never knew he wrote.
Two letters and a poem
rot in a box
deep in my closet.
I stand above a freshly carved out grave,
with a promise to one day fill it.
(And to never lose my heart.)
Atlas Harris, age 17, is a writer, actor and artist from Detroit, Michigan. They edit and write for their school paper and are president of their school’s GSA.
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9/17/23, 8:43 AM
Powerful. Spreading the truth some don't think about, some don't have to worry about. A great and strong piece.
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
8/25/23, 10:35 PM
Excellent and amazing
8/17/23, 7:00 AM
Absolutely beautiful poem! The words were picked meaningfully and used it a descriptive way. Very relatable.
8/11/23, 4:59 AM
Beautiful, moving and thought provoking. Keep up the amazing work!
8/11/23, 4:48 AM
Absolutely beautiful work! Relatable for some and eye-opening for others.
6/19/23, 6:26 PM
It is really great, I'm impressed!
Eunice N Kitchener
6/11/23, 5:13 PM
Quite amazing and interesting story. It's also a challenge to others. Develop your skills through hard work.
6/8/23, 7:21 AM
Beautiful. A wonderful portrait of the identity crisis caused by colonialism.
5/26/23, 6:23 AM
Congratulations Claire - this is a powerful piece - this feeling of a yearning for a home that may not even exist anymore will be something that everyone who lives outside of their original homeland will resonate with. Well done.